TACTILE PLEASURES

Panama 2014 | TELECOMS & IT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Eduardo Antonio Quirós B., President of Grupo Editorial El Siglo y La Estrella de Panamá, on the role his papers have played in Panamanian cultural life, and technology in the news media.

Eduardo Antonio Quirós B.
BIOGRAPHY
Eduardo Antonio Quirós B. studied law and political science, and has completed graduate studies in administration and finance. In 1999, he was selected as a substitute legislator of the Republic of Panama, and has since served as Vice-Minister of Finance at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, Member of the National Economic Council, and Governor of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), as well as spending a year at the Ministry of Public Works. In addition, he was a member of the board of the Panama Canal Authority for almost a decade until 2013, is a professor of constitutional law at the Universidad Latina de Panamá, and is Vice-President of the board of the National Journalism Council (CNP) and the Inter-American Press Association (SIP).

What has been the main focus of your growth strategy in order to keep La Estrella and El Siglo relevant in the modern marketplace?

We're not just the oldest newspaper in Panama, but are one of the three oldest newspapers in Latin America. At the same time, we're the most read newspaper in Panama and the “youngest" newspaper as well, be it in print form or in new alternative forms, such as online. Today, we're among the three biggest newspapers in the country, and we have about 300 people working with us. We've always tried to understand and address the way Panamanians want to read news, especially these days when time has become a rare commodity. So in short, our strength has been our constant effort to help understand what the readers want and to provide that.

How has the newspaper contributed to the social, cultural, political, and economic development of Panama?

We've been around since 1849. Since that time, Panamanians have followed what's happening in their country and in the world through our newspaper. In the past, the Panama Star was also available as far afield as California. So the newspaper also had an international presence. That shows how important this small country has been for the international community since the 19th century. Throughout our 165 years of existence, La Estrella has always been committed first and foremost to promoting and raising awareness of the fact that Panama is an independent country. We have also always been committed to Panamanian sovereignty over the Panama Canal. Looking at other examples, in sports everyone remembered the front page when Roberto “Hands of Stone" Duran beat Sugar Ray Leonard in the US, and it read “Roberto Cumplio!" (Roberto Did It!). So a whole nation shared in a special moment of unity through our front page, and that's just one example. We have been a driver in the political, economic and social development of the country.

What are the main differences between El Siglo and La Estrella in terms of editorial content, readership, and formats?

La Estrella targets a middle to upper class readership, whereas El Siglo targets the middle class to the base of the pyramid. We have the same commitment in both newspapers. The approach is different, but the news content is the same.

What role will the growing use of technology play in news media?

Newspapers are definitely changing; there's more of a shift online, and this is the case the world over. Newspapers are also becoming more like magazines. However, I think people still like to pay money to sit down and hold a newspaper in their hands and finger through those pages while drinking their coffee. There's a tactile pleasure in that. That being said, we want to incorporate all the new media and news delivering technologies that are available, and we deliver the news through multiple platforms. But we also have a very strong commitment to who we are, who we have been, and the basic concept of the newspaper.

In which platforms will you be investing more in the coming years?

Right now we're working on redesigning the newspaper and webpage, working on new apps for both La Estrella de Panamá and El Siglo, and utilizing more social media. I don't think other local newspapers are doing this and in these staggering dimensions. Also, we have projects for new strategic alliances, and we aim to develop this multiplatform, multimedia network.